Fdd's overnight brief

March 18, 2019

In The News


A United States Navy veteran held in Iran since July while visiting an Iranian girlfriend has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges that he insulted the country’s top leader and posted a private photograph on social media, his family’s lawyer said Friday. – New York Times

Iran recalled its ambassador to Kenya because of a court decision upholding sentences for two Iranians in jail, foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said Sunday, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency. – Reuters

U.S. officials said the global oil market can withstand the removal of all Iranian crude exports this year, a conclusion that could be pivotal in the coming weeks as President Donald Trump weighs whether to end sanctions waivers granted to several nations. – Bloomberg

Authorities in Buenos Aires have arrested two Iranians suspected of traveling on fake Israeli passports, according to local Argentinean media. Police are treating the two, a man and woman, as possible terror suspects, and have raised the alertness level, daily Clarin reported. – Times of Israel

Former prime minister Ehud Barak had his phone and computer tapped by Iranians, according to the head of the Shin Bet, Nadav Argaman. Israel’s Channel 12 released a report on Sunday that said an infiltration into the former prime minister’s phone was detected about six months ago. – Jerusalem Post

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has informed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that Washington was concerned over the Iranian regime’s “destructive and disruptive activities” in the Middle East.  Pompeo and Guterres discussed in Washington “the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, ongoing events in Venezuela, and the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, among other matters,” the Office of the State Department’s spokesperson said in a press release on Wednesday. – Asharq al-Awsat

Editorial: The Saudis aren’t in danger of an Iranian invasion, but don’t underestimate the signal that abandoning our ally would send across the Middle East. It will be seen by Iran and Russia as an invitation to more trouble-making, and another signal to allies that the U.S. can’t be trusted. More war is the likeliest result. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: The prosecution of Ms. Sotoudeh is outrageous. Her crime? She defended women being prosecuted for peacefully protesting Iran’s compulsory hijab law by removing the head covering in public. The regime is clearly set on making an example of her. – Washington Post

Kathy Gilsinan writes: The Trump administration has made a priority of punishing and pressuring Iran. But the same administration that withdrew from the nuclear deal that President Donald Trump dubbed “a great embarrassment” may actually end up preserving it. – The Atlantic


The U.S. military is crafting plans to keep nearly 1,000 forces in Syria, U.S. officials said, a shift that comes three months after President Trump ordered a complete withdrawal and is far more than the White House originally intended. – Wall Street Journal

The nation’s top general denied a report Sunday that said the United States is planning to keep nearly 1,000 troops in Syria. “A claim reported this evening by a major U.S. newspaper that the U.S. military is developing plans to keep nearly 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria is factually incorrect,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a statement. “There has been no change to the plan announced in February and we continue to implement the President’s direction to draw down U.S. forces to a residual presence,” he adds. – Washington Examiner

U.S.-backed fighters have taken positions in Islamic State’s last enclave in eastern Syria, they said late on Sunday, after pounding the tiny patch of land by the banks of the Euphrates. – Reuters

U.S.-backed forces fighting to recapture the last Islamic State group outpost in Syria admitted on Sunday they were facing “difficulties” defeating the extremists, saying they were being slowed by mines, tunnels and concerns over harming women and children among the militants. – Associated Press  

The three Islamic State fighters emerged from the group’s last bastion in eastern Syria on Friday acting as though they wanted to surrender, but when they reached the U.S.-backed forces that have them surrounded they blew themselves up, killing six people. The attacks underscored the struggles faced by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces as they try to flush the extremists out of a tent camp in eastern Syria built over a labyrinth of caves and tunnels — all that remains of a self-declared caliphate that once sprawled across large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq. – Associated Press

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Sunday that more than 60,000 people, mostly civilians, had flooded out of Islamic State’s last enclave in eastern Syria since a final assault to capture it began over two months ago. – Reuters  

Michael Rubin writes: Sitting in sterile diplomatic conference rooms or with the luxury of writing thousands of miles away from Syria, it is easy to propose formulas that rehabilitate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Many diplomats and analysts suggest that, now that Assad appears to have won the civil war, the international community must deal with him. Worse still, the UN may channel billions of dollars in reconstruction assistance through his government. In such circumstance, perhaps it is right to ask whether a man responsible for such horror on a daily basis should really be treated with any less disdain than the terrorist responsible for the massacre in New Zealand. – American Enterprise Institute


An assailant believed to be Palestinian carried out a stabbing and shooting attack in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, killing an Israeli soldier and ratcheting up tensions ahead of Israeli elections. – New York Times  

Donald Trump has spent two years showering Benjamin Netanyahu with precious political gifts, from the Jerusalem embassy move to his exit from the Iran nuclear deal. With a close-run election looming, the Israeli leader needs him more than ever. Netanyahu travels to Washington next week with a corruption scandal hanging over his bid for re-election on April 9. For the first time in a decade, his fragile coalition could fall to a center-left bloc led by ex-military chief of staff Benny Gantz. – Bloomberg

The Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups praised a pair of shooting attacks in the northern West Bank on Sunday, in which one Israeli was killed and two others were critically wounded, calling them “heroic.” Early Sunday, close to the Ariel Junction, a terrorist assaulted a soldier with a knife, managed to gain control of his weapon and shot him dead, an IDF spokesman said. – Times of Israel

A U.N. envoy condemned Gaza’s ruling Hamas group on Sunday for what he called its campaign of arrests and violence in confronting street protests over the past few days against high prices. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a visa ban on officials pursuing International Criminal Court charges against Americans and Israelis. – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

The last few days saw the US, Israel and their allies fire warning shots across the bow of the International Criminal Court about diving deeper into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since September, there has been speculation that the US might take concrete actions against the ICC if it pressured Israel with a full war crimes investigation. – Jerusalem Post

The UN Human Rights Council is expected to call for the arrest of IDF soldiers responsible for Gaza deaths at border and for a boycott of West Bank settlements, when it gathers in Geneva on Monday for the last week of its 40th session. – Jerusalem Post

Weekly Hamas-spurred protests along the Gaza-Israel border were called off Friday after a serious escalation overnight between Palestinian terrorists and Israel, organizers announced, the first time they have not been held in almost a year. – Times of Israel

Shimrit Meir writes: Hamas accuses Fatah and the Palestinian Authority of running the protests from Ramallah by remote control, and reminding the protesters that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has significantly cut money transfers to Gaza, is largely responsible for their situation. That maybe true, but it is also true that the sentiment against Hamas is growing. Unlike in recent years, more people in Gaza have allowed themselves to protest on social media against Hamas. The rocket fire on Thursday, therefore, was greeted by some in Gaza with a cynical Israeli-style reaction, namely, that Hamas was trying to draw attention from its woes by giving the Israelis something to worry about. – Ynet

New Zealand Shooting

The sharp cracks of gunfire were so confusing that at first the imam continued his sermon on forgiveness and brotherhood. […]It quickly became clear the sound came from bullets ripping through the main prayer hall. Worshipers were falling. Others raced toward the far corners of the room to get away. – Wall Street Journal

The investigation into how Brenton Tarrant was able to acquire the arsenal that police allege he used in Friday’s massacre of worshipers at two Christchurch mosques reached a major firearms retailer with stores across New Zealand. – Wall Street Journal

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, on Monday ordered an inquiry into what government officials knew about the gunman in Friday’s massacre before he carried out the attack that left 50 people dead at two mosques in Christchurch. – New York Times  

New Zealand grappled with grief and horror on Sunday, two days after a gunman opened fire at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, killing at least 50 people. The terrorist attack appeared to have been carried out by a white nationalist who posted a racist manifesto online and streamed live video of the killings on Facebook. – New York Times  

When the prime minister announced plans to ban semiautomatic rifles following Friday’s mass shootings, it seemed to be the bold response that many New Zealanders wanted — until the country’s attorney general backpedaled almost immediately and said that might not be the government’s final decision. – New York Times  

The massacre of 49 people in New Zealand on Friday highlights the contagious ways in which extreme right ideology and violence have spread in the 21st century — even to a country that had not experienced a mass shooting for more than two decades, and which is rarely associated with the extreme right. – New York Times  

Investigators believe the Australian man accused of Friday’s mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand illegally fed higher-capacity magazines into a semiautomatic rifle, enabling him to shoot more worshipers without reloading. – Wall Street Journal

Five months before authorities say he launched a deadly assault on two New Zealand mosques, Brenton Tarrant visited a scenic corner of northeast Pakistan few Western tourists have ever seen. On Facebook, he called the predominantly Muslim country “an incredible place filled with the most earnest, kind hearted and hospitable people in the world.” How he got from there to allegedly gunning down 50 people is a puzzle authorities are now trying to solve. – Wall Street Journal

When the 28-year-old man charged with murder in the terrorist attacks on two mosques in New Zealand posted a manifesto on social media claiming responsibility, he described himself as “just a ordinary White man” from a working-class family in Australia. What fueled his animosity to Muslims, he wrote, was a 2017 visit to Western Europe and, in particular, France. Many of the ideas contained in the lengthy screed—including its title “The Great Replacement”—echo the writings of 72-year-old French author Renaud Camus. – Wall Street Journal

Jihadis are reacting to the March 15, 2019 mass shooting in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, in which at least 49 people were killed in attacks at two mosques in the center of the city. Several suspects have been arrested in connection with the shootings, including 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant, according to media reports. The attack was apparently streamed live on social media, and jihadis circulated snippets from these videos in their posts. – Middle East Media Research Institute

A Christchurch gun shop on Monday acknowledged selling guns online to the 28-year-old white supremacist accused of killing 50 people in mosque shootings that have upturned New Zealand’s reputation as among the world’s most tolerant and safe nations. – Associated Press  

When a gunman killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh last year, Muslim communities in the area raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the victims. Now the Jewish community in Pittsburgh is reciprocating the kindness after a massacre at two mosques in New Zealand. – CNN

Editorial: Democracies are vulnerable to attacks from extremists of all types, including white supremacists. New Zealand’s wrenching reassessment of threats will be familiar to Americans who recall 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 that killed 168. The sad lesson, as always, is that healthy societies require vigilance as much as an ethic of public tolerance to defend their values. – Wall Street Journal

Seth G. Jones writes: The March 15 terrorist attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, is symptomatic of a rising trend in right-wing extremism. Far-right attacks across the globe have increased because of immigration fears, far-right utilization of social media, and the inter-connectedness of extremist networks around the globe. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Middle East & North Africa

Tens of thousands of Algerians packed the streets of the capital on Friday in the largest protest yet against the rule of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, a clear sign that they had rejected as insufficient his offer not to seek a fifth term as president. – New York Times  

Social media companies have been working overtime to remove video of the New Zealand mosque attacks, which were livestreamed by the assailant. But the footage has emerged in a different place in recent days: the election rallies of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. At a televised rally in Antalya, in southern Turkey, on Sunday — and twice the day before — Mr. Erdogan used an edited version of the video to galvanize support among his Islamist followers ahead of local elections at the end of the month and criticize the Turkish opposition as weak. – New York Times  

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia authorized a secret campaign to silence dissenters — which included the surveillance, kidnapping, detention and torture of Saudi citizens — over a year before the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, according to American officials who have read classified intelligence reports about the campaign. – New York Times  

Clashes between the Iraqi army and Kurdish PKK militia killed two Iraqi soldiers and wounded five of the militants on Sunday, the Iraqi military said in a statement. – Reuters

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday rebuked the senators who oppose U.S. involvement in Yemen’s civil war, by implying they don’t “truly care” about the suffering caused by the conflict. “We all want this conflict to end,” Pompeo said as he spoke about this week’s Senate vote. “We all want to improve the dire humanitarian situation. But the Trump administration fundamentally disagrees that curbing our assistance to the Saudi-led coalition is the way to achieve these goals.” – Washington Examiner

The Iraqi government has started exhuming a mass grave left behind by the Islamic State group in the northwestern Sinjar region in the presence of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad, whose slain relatives are believed to have been buried in the area. – Associated Press

Jackson Diehl writes: Still, the new wave of unrest points to a couple of conclusions that run counter to the conventional wisdom in Washington — especially inside the Trump administration. First, as Dunne puts it, “The tinder again is quite dry in the region, and sparks are beginning to fly.” And, second, the authoritarian restoration that was supposed to return political stability to the Arab Middle East and open the way to economic modernization has failed. – Washington Post

Korean Peninsula

A senior North Korean official warned that the country may suspend negotiations with the U.S. over its nuclear arsenal, in the latest sign of pressure on Washington after the two sides failed to reach an agreement at last month’s U.S.-North Korea summit. – Wall Street Journal

Days before President Trump was set to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam, a mysterious incident in Spain threatened to derail the entire high-stakes nuclear summit. In broad daylight, masked assailants infiltrated North Korea’s embassy in Madrid, tied up the staff, stole computers and mobile phones, and fled the scene in two luxury vehicles. – Washington Post

The past three weeks may have been the toughest of Moon Jae-in’s presidency. The centerpiece of the South Korean leader’s rule, rapprochement with North Korea, is in tatters after the breakdown of the summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Opinion polls released this past week show his popularity falling to its lowest level since his inauguration nearly two years ago, while on Friday, North Korea threatened to pull out of negotiations with the United States entirely if Washington didn’t drop its “gangster-like” demands. – Washington Post

President Trump’s claims that reduced tensions with North Korea resulting from his personal diplomacy with Kim Jong Un demonstrated progress toward a nuclear deal were undercut Friday as Pyongyang lashed out at the administration’s “gangster-like” tactics and blamed his top aides for the failed summit last month. – Washington Post

President Trump’s top national security adviser is warning North Korea not to renew missile tests as negotiations to dismantle the regime’s nuclear weapons program have stalled out. “They issued an unhelpful statement saying they were thinking of going back to nuclear and ballistic missile testing, which would not be a good idea on their part,” John Bolton said during a radio interview that aired Sunday morning. – Washington Examiner

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has hit back at North Korean claims that he’s partly responsible for the hard line that led President Trump to walk away from the negotiating table at the Hanoi summit last month with Kim Jong Un. Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton created an “atmosphere of hostility and mistrust,” North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui charged at a diplomatic gathering in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, Friday. – Washington Examiner

South Korea’s Blue House presidential office confirmed a Yonhap News Agency report that it’s mulling a meeting with its reclusive neighbor. Both the U.S. and North Korea “absolutely don’t want” to revert to the situation before 2017 when there was conflict and confrontation, Yonhap cited an unidentified high-level official at the Blue House as saying. – Bloomberg

It is too soon to tell if recent activity at some of North Korea’s rocket facilities is preparation for a missile launch, South Korea’s defense minister told a parliamentary hearing on Monday. – Reuters


The Trump administration’s aggressive campaign to prevent countries from using Huawei and other Chinese telecommunications equipment in their next-generation wireless networks has faltered, with even some of America’s closest allies rejecting the United States’ argument that the companies pose a security threat. – New York Times

The Trump administration is drafting a new Arctic defense strategy focusing heavily on competition with China, whose expansion around the world has drawn increasing scrutiny from senior U.S. officials. The document will outline how the Pentagon “can best defend U.S. national interests and support security and stability in the Arctic,” said Johnny Michael, a Pentagon spokesman. It will do so, he said, within the framework of the Pentagon’s national defense strategy, which last year emphasized shifting the military away from counterterrorism operations to “great-power competition” with Russia and China. – Washington Post

Chinese leader Xi Jinping will make state visits to Europe from this week as he seeks to bolster trade relationships on the continent while trying to end a trade war with the U.S. President Xi will travel to France, Italy and Monaco from March 21 to 26, China Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Monday, as reported by the official Xinhua News Agency. The invitations were issued by French president Emmanuel Macron, Monaco’s leader Prince Albert II and Italian president Sergio Mattarella, Lu said. – Bloomberg

With the shock election of anti-globalist Donald Trump to the US presidency still fresh in their minds, international leaders watched with anticipation as Chinese President Xi Jinping stepped up to the podium at Davos in January 2017. Xi’s speech in favor of globalization and free trade was met with praise by governments and businesses across the world. […]Two years later, that international optimism has soured and Beijing faces an increasingly chilly reaction in parts of the world. – CNN

Authorities in China have arrested almost 13,000 “terrorists” in Xinjiang since 2014, the government said on Monday, in a policy paper defending its controversial de-radicalisation measures for Muslims in the restive far western region. – Reuters

A former U.S. intelligence officer has pleaded guilty to spying on behalf of China and agreed to a 15-year prison sentence, federal officials announced Friday. Chinese agents recruited Ron Rockwell Hansen in early 2014 and paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars. Hanson then spent two years trying to recruit a co-conspirator to provide details about military readiness in a particular region, but that case officer reported the issue and cooperated in a sting to end the espionage. – Washington Examiner


At least 100 Afghan soldiers abandoned their posts and fled imminent capture by the Taliban by crossing the country’s border into neighboring Turkmenistan, only to face immediate expulsion, Afghan officials said on Saturday. – New York Times  

The Taliban carried out the biggest known capture of Afghan soldiers of the war, taking 150 prisoners after they chased units into neighboring Turkmenistan and that country forced them back, Afghan officials said on Sunday. – New York Times  

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. is imposing visa restrictions against International Criminal Court officials, citing investigations by the ICC into the activities of Americans and their allies in Afghanistan. – Wall Street Journal

President Donald Trump and his national security team had an hourlong, classified meeting on Afghanistan on Friday, a day after a top Afghan official openly complained that the Trump administration was keeping his government in the dark about its negotiations with the Taliban. – Associated Press    

Michael Morell and Mike Vickers write: Call us skeptics — but we have deep concerns whether the Taliban will live up to the promises it may be about to make. Signing, and then breaking, a peace deal has occurred before in U.S. history — a North Vietnamese offensive in the aftermath of the Paris Peace Accords being the best example. – Washington Post


The Philippines officially withdrew from the International Criminal Court on Sunday, after the country’s highest court declined to overrule President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to leave the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal. – New York Times  

The sparring between India and Pakistan last month threatened to spiral out of control and only interventions by U.S. officials, including National Security Advisor John Bolton, headed off a bigger conflict, five sources familiar with the events said. – Reuters

Editorial: On Wednesday Beijing blocked a United Nations Security Council effort to sanction Masood Azhar, the founder of jihadist terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed. […]China is shielding Mr. Azhar even as it uses the threat of terror to sanction its own citizens. In its northwestern Xinjiang province, more than one million Chinese Uighur Muslims have been detained in “re-education” centers under the guise of preventing extremism. Xinjiang expert Adrian Zenz told the U.N. Human Rights Committee this week the number may have eclipsed 1.5 million, calling it “nothing less than a systematic campaign of cultural genocide.” – Wall Street Journal


Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close ties to the Kremlin, sued the United States government on Friday, demanding it lift sanctions that he claimed have cost him billions of dollars, made him “radioactive” in international business circles and exposed him to criminal investigation and asset confiscation in Russia. – New York Times

The International Investment Bank, an obscure Russian financial institution with a small-time balance sheet, is an unlikely source of global intrigue. In more normal times, its plans to open a new headquarters in Budapest would pass unnoticed. But the bank’s chairman has longstanding ties to Russian intelligence agencies. And the Hungarian Parliament has effectively granted the bank diplomatic immunity from any scrutiny by police or financial regulators — leaving Western security officials concerned that Russian spies could use it as a base to conduct European intelligence operations. – New York Times  

Russia on Monday will mark the fifth anniversary of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, condemned by the West but celebrated by most Russians. President Vladimir Putin will take part in celebrations in the Black Sea peninsula, where he is also due to launch a new power station, the Kremlin said. – Agence France Presse  

Russia said it will take a wait and see approach on whether to extend OPEC+ output cuts because the market has achieved a fragile balance, contrasting with Saudi Arabia’s view there’s still more to be done to restore oil market fundamentals. – Bloomberg

Half a decade has passed since Vladimir Putin annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. For Russia, the costs continue to mount. The accession treaty signed to bring the Black Sea territory into Moscow’s fold is still unrecognized by most countries and the U.S. and European Union led a broad effort to punish Russia with sanctions. Undeterred, Russia has kept integrating Crimea into its economy, investing billions in new power plants and building a giant bridge to the peninsula last year. – Bloomberg


Violence erupted on Saturday in Paris in the 18th weekend of “Yellow Vest” demonstrations as protesters targeted symbols of economic privilege, setting multiple fires and smashing a high-end restaurant on the Champs-Élysées, even as the crowd’s numbers dwindled from past rallies. – New York Times  

French officials vowed to step up a crackdown on violent protesters, a day after clashes erupted during the 18th straight Saturday of yellow-vest protests that caught authorities off guard and put more pressure on President Emmanuel Macron. – Wall Street Journal

Theresa May is threatening to give up trying to get Brexit done any time soon unless euroskeptics in her Conservative party back down and promise to vote for her deal this week. The British prime minister is still working to win support for her divorce agreement but she won’t bother putting it to another vote in Parliament as planned on Tuesday unless there is a strong chance it will be approved, ministers said. – Bloomberg

France has warned that the EU should not rush into trade talks with President Donald Trump, as Paris seeks guarantees that sensitive economic sectors will be protected in negotiations that it hopes can be delayed until after May’s European Parliament elections. Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, the French junior minister responsible for commerce, told the FT that Paris broadly supports EU plans to hammer out a tariff-reduction deal with the US on industrial goods. – Financial Times

Canada will announce as expected on Monday that it is extending a 200-strong military training mission in Ukraine, a source directly familiar with the matter said on Sunday. – Reuters

Political representatives in Germany’s Bundestag overwhelmingly rejected a resolution by the Free Democratic Party to urge Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to reverse its anti-Israel voting record at the United Nations. – Jerusalem Post

Joseph C. Sternberg writes: Somewhere around three weeks ago, it became impossible for mere mortals to follow Brexit anymore. Until that point a voter could, with sufficient care, understand the contours of the debate in Parliament surrounding Britain’s impending departure from the European Union. Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed deal with Brussels could be parsed well enough to judge its merits. Alternative proposals and their political viability were measurable. No longer. – Wall Street Journal


Armed men killed nine villagers, including children, and torched homes in northern Nigeria on Saturday, official sources said, the latest attack in a surge of violence in the Kaduna region. – Agence France-Presse

A U.S. Department of Justice probe into a $2 billion loan scandal in Mozambique is exposing some of the southeastern African nation’s top politicians to allegations of wrongdoing, just months before it holds elections. It’s also complicating the government’s talks with international creditors on how to restructure the debt, which includes $727 million of bonds. – Bloomberg

Gunmen attacked and briefly seized a Malian army base overnight, killing at least 16 soldiers and destroying five vehicles in central Mali’s Mopti region, officials said on Sunday. – Reuters


President Nicolás Maduro’s government convened an urgent meeting of 12 technicians in February 2016 at the giant El Guri hydroelectric complex after rolling blackouts had hit Venezuela. – Wall Street Journal

To maintain their hold over Venezuela, Mr. Maduro and his supporters have often used the nation’s economic collapse to their advantage, dangling food before hungry voters, promising extra subsidies if he won, and demanding that people present identification cards tied to government rations when they came to the polls. But participants in the schemes say Mr. Maduro and his supporters have deployed another tool as well: Cuba’s international medical corps. – New York Times  

One of the world’s most enthusiastic students of President Donald Trump’s turbulent, Twitter-based style of government will finally meet the master on Tuesday when Brazil’s new head of state visits the White House. For Jair Bolsonaro, who revels in the “Trump of the Tropics’’ moniker, the trip offers him the opportunity to both drum up business for Brazil and to relaunch his image on the global stage after an underwhelming debut at the World Economic Forum in Davos. – Bloomberg

Venezuela’s self-proclaimed interim leader Juan Guaido began a tour of his country Saturday aimed at sparking a citizen’s movement to pry President Nicolas Maduro from power. As Guaido, 35, kicked off his “operation freedom” in the northern city of Valencia, the pro-Maduro military staged the latest in a series of exercises. – Agence France Presse

German journalist Billy Six, detained by Venezuelan intelligence services four months ago, was freed Friday in Caracas — but must report to the court every 15 days, an NGO confirmed. Six was arrested in northern Falcon state for allegedly photographing President Nicolas Maduro “very closely,” according to free speech NGO Espacio Publico. – Agence France Presse  

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: China used its United Nations Security Council veto in February to knock down a resolution condemning the fraudulent May 2018 Venezuelan presidential election and calling for new elections and international humanitarian aid for the country. The resolution was backed by France, the U.K. and the U.S., but the veto was especially painful for the Venezuelan people and their South American neighbors. – Wall Street Journal

Cyber Security

As Facebook and YouTube work to take down videos of Friday’s terrorist killings that left 50 dead in New Zealand, white supremacists are finding new ways to keep the content alive. – Wall Street Journal

Australia’s media watchdog launched a formal investigation Monday into the possible breach of rules by networks which broadcast or put online images from a livestream of the New Zealand mosque massacre. – Agence France Presse  

An 18-year-old man was denied bail at a court in New Zealand on Monday after he was charged with distributing a live stream of the mass shooting at a mosque last week, the New Zealand Herald reported. – Reuters

On a day-to-day basis, Facebook’s security team has its hands full dealing with the hoards of people that turn up at the company’s offices to complain about their accounts, attempt to meet Mark Zuckerberg, or just try to look around. But the California social-networking giant also has to consider the possibility of more serious threats — among them, the risk that foreign spies might try to insinuate themselves into its workforce. – Business Insider

Margaret Sullivan writes: The platforms, when challenged on their role in viral violence, tend to say that there is no way they can control the millions of videos, documents and statements being uploaded or posted every hour around the world. They respond when they can, which is often with agonizing slowness and far too late. And they insist on presenting themselves not as media companies with some sort of gatekeeping or editing responsibility, but as mere platforms — places for their billions of users to do pretty much what they wish. – Washington Post

James Pethokoukis writes: But it is the culture that built up the internet — one the shooter is intimately familiar with — that is at least as much the problem here as the internet’s basic infrastructure or how tech firms are responding. Users should probably have better moderation tools at their disposal, but what about our fellow humans who actively desire this sort of content in their feeds or timelines? Or the politicians who egg them on, whether explicitly or with subtlety, or ignore what appears to be a global supremacist movement that hates the West? – American Enterprise Institute


The Navy now plans to buy its first Large Surface Combatant ship in Fiscal Year 2025, pushed back two years from a planned 2023 start date. Though the new warship is not meant to directly replace either the Ticonderoga-class cruisers or the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, the original timing would have allowed the Navy to stop its Arleigh Burke DDG production at the end of the current multiyear contract in 2022 and then move into the new Large Surface Combatant hull in 2023. – USNI News

President Trump has chosen Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters to become the Supreme NATO Commander and U.S. European Commander, acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan has announced. Wolters, 59, will replace Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who has held the position in 2016. A combat veteran who served in the Gulf War and the Iraq War, Wolters has flown more than 5,000 hours in the F-15 Eagle, F-22 Raptor, OV-10 Bronco, T-38 Talon, and A-10 Warthog aircraft. – Washington Examiner

International officials trying to prosecute American military personnel will not be allowed to enter the United States, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Friday. “We are determined to protect the American, allied, and civilian personnel from living in fear of unjust prosecutions for actions taken to defend our great nation,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department. – Washington Examiner

A Russian-American crew arrived at the International Space Station Friday, five months after a botched launch led to an emergency landing for two of the three astronauts. –  Air Force Times

Long War

France has repatriated five young children of French-born Islamist extremists who had left to join the Islamic State. The announcement, made late Friday by the Foreign Ministry, followed weeks of controversy over the prospect of allowing French-born fighters to return to France to stand trial. France has suffered the brunt of Europe’s recent struggles with terrorist violence either orchestrated or inspired by the Islamic State, with more than 230 people killed in attacks since 2015. – Washington Post

The boy is only 12 years old and looks even younger and smaller kneeling next to the wreckage of a helicopter, flanked by masked jihadis carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles with bandoliers strapped across their chests. Hamza bin Laden, with a traditional Arab coffee pot to his right and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher to his left leaning against the debris, made his worldwide television debut reciting a poem in a propaganda video just weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks planned by his father Osama. – Associated Press

British counter terrorism police said on Sunday they were investigating an attempted murder which “has hallmarks of a terror event, inspired by the far-right” and a 50-year-old man has been arrested. – Reuters

Trump Administration

President Trump vetoed a congressional resolution disapproving of his national-emergency declaration, asserting his authority to tap funding for barriers on the southern border even though the money hadn’t been appropriated by lawmakers. – Wall Street Journal

President Donald Trump on Friday declared that the Republican Party is “waiting with open arms” to welcome Jewish voters who he said are fleeing the “total disrespect” they have been shown by Democrats, whom the GOP has accused of harboring anti-Semitic sentiments. – Politico  

Journalist Dan Rather said Sunday that Twitter is a platform for propaganda and pointed to President Trump’s use of the social network as an example. “This is a whole new age. And the president has the strongest, the most powerful platform for propaganda that humans have ever had,” the former CBS News anchor said on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” “No president has ever had this kind of reach, the combination of television, radio, the internet, social media, tweet[s].” – Washington Examiner

A good number of people in the defense community thought this would be the week that Patrick Shanahan finally escaped the dubious distinction of being America’s longest-running acting secretary of defense. It was expected that President Donald Trump would officially nominate Shanahan to replace James Mattis as Pentagon chief on Friday. – Foreign Policy

Editorial: The House voted 420-0 late last week on a resolution urging the public release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to Attorney General William Barr. That sounds good to us, as long as the AG releases everything related to the Trump-Russia probe. – Wall Street Journal